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Berkeley: Lagosia – Stylish, modern, upscale British and Nigerian cuisine … go, please, go

rworange Jul 4, 2007 12:13 AM

There are some great reports about Lagosia in another thread, but the topic just says Nigerian … even for Chowhounds that’s a yawn for a lot of people.

No.

If you don’t think you like Nigerian … you will like Lagosia

If you are British and longing for some of those tastes that doesn’t involve the usual pub grub … you will like Lagosia.

This is far from the hole-in-the wall that defines most Bay Area African food.

It reminds me a lot of Vanessa’s on Solano … only British – Nigerian.

Tables get tiny bowls of complementary house-made chin chin. This is a hard, tiny square cracker-like snack … think the size of goldfish only irregularly squarish.

I had

- Scotch eggs
- Chicken suya - West African shish kebabs seasoned with spicy peanut rub served with fresh cut red onions
-- Puff puffs - chocolate or plain West African beniets

I saw the Scotch eggs on another table … and they looked fabulous … it is unlikely I would have otherwise ordered them… stay with me here because this bit of deliciousness sounds awful … coated deep-fried eggs.

These were lovely snacks ... quartered warm hard-boiled eggs with a delicious coating presented beautifully on a square plate strewn with shredded carrots. A small dish of house-made salad cream was in the center.

NO … not the horrid bottled salad cream This was to the bottled cream as home-made mayo is to Miracle Whip … a totally different and tasty thing.

A long rectangular plate held two delicious small kebobs with a dish of hot mustard for dipping. The marinated thin sliced red onions garnished with a confetti of green herbs and orange carrots were as pretty as they were addictive The kebabs were so good I didn’t want to hide the flavor with the mustard which IMO was too assertive and overpowered the great kebab rub.

The puff puffs are a definitely sharable dessert … get the chocolate … get … the … chocolate.

Large warm made-to-order puff puff balls were covered with powdered sugar and garnished with fresh raspberries. They are almost like a cross between beignets and mochi. They have a mochi-like texture. I had a mix of the regular and the chocolate (4 to a plate). The chocolate are just the regular with pieces of bittersweet chocolate in them that turn liquid like warm- from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies ... like the chocolate in a hot pan au chocolate.

One would be a filling dessert. Share.

There’s currently a small wine list
Sparkler
- Simmonet-Febre cremant de Bourgogne blanc

White
- Golden Kaan Sauvignon Blanc, South Africa
- Cline Viogner
- Pierre Sparr Gewurztraminer Reserve, Alsace

Red
- Cellar No 8 Cabernet Sauvignon
- Tamari Malbec

After dinner
- Osborn Pedro Ximenez 1827 sherry, Spain

The spacious restaurant with large, sunny windows looking out on a tree-lined section of University is decorated in shades of brown beige and muted gold. There is a long bar that reminded me of an expanded version of Vanessa’s.

The staff in white shirts, black pants and long place aprons were pleasant and are the upscale restaurant type of wait staff.

The manager, Abby, is a warm and welcoming woman. There is a little bakery case up front and she said the plans were to have a bakery section with English pastries and cakes and African meat pies. Maybe a real English scone will finally be available in the Bay Area.

She said that since Nigeria was a British colony, that food is common in Nigeria.

The menu is briefer than the on-line menu. Abby said after their soft opening they scaled back until business built up. Right now there are only chicken kebabs and no goat.

The equally friendly and charming chef/owner Kofo Domingo stopped by each of the tables to ask how the food was. Her smiling photo on the site just captures her warmth
http://www.lagosia.com/about-kofo.htm

Now this is the reason you MUST … MUST …go NOW !!!

This place needs Chowhounds who appreciate good food. The first thing chef Domingo asked was if the food was too spicy. I didn’t find it spicy only delicious and flavorful. She said some people were complaining about too much spice which is why they scaled back the menu to see what would appeal to people.

One problem is University Avenue has so many small mom and pops and African usually is … that people aren’t expecting this. Put this place on Solano or Shattuck up near Chez Panisse and people wouldn’t be raving … not adverse to flavor.

So go … enjoy … convince the owners that people do appreciate the different and delicious. Go just so we have a nice upscale restaurant that isn’t serving the same thing every other restaurant is serving.

BTW, even if people aren’t up to trying African, some not so exotic combos can be assembled .. a green salad with the fish or kabobs should appeal to timid eaters.

Previous report
http://www.chowhound.com/topics/417321

Lagosia West African Cuisine
http://www.lagosia.com

1725 University Avenue ... almost next ot AAA
Berkeley, CA 94703

510-540-8833

Weekdays
*Closed on Mondays
Lunch: 11:00am to 2:30pm
Dinner: 5:00pm to 10:00pm

Weekends
Saturday: 10:00am to 10:00pm
Sunday: 10:00am to 7:00pm

-----
Lagosia
1725 University Ave, Berkeley, CA 94703

  1. f
    FriendForFood Dec 2, 2007 06:21 PM

    I noticed some people complained about the "dumplings", the "dumplings" are NOT meant to be eaten by themselves, the iyan, eba or whichever fufu you have is supposed to be eaten with the "stew".

    1. Windy Nov 18, 2007 01:53 PM

      We finally made it to Lagosia, which had been on my list since this post and Patricia Untermann's glowing review in the Examiner. We really liked it. It's hard to find completely unfamiliar food that tastes this good in such affable surroundings.

      We shared the appetizer combo, the pepper soup with goat meat, and egusi stew with chicken, to which we added spinach. I also got a homemade ginger beer ,and we had three glasses of white wine.

      Kofo is as lovely as reported. She welcomed every table personally. If anything service is too attentive; my companion and I were having a good conversation and our server interrupted us after every course to see if we were (still) enjoying our meal.

      The appetizer plate is a worthwhile sampler, although RW has already highlighted the star items, scotch eggs and chicken suya. The sausage rolls with the ginger beer and panfried cakes were equally yummy.

      I loved the pepper soup with goat. It was simple and warming on a foggy night. Not much in it--just a dark broth, no apparent vegetables except hunks of meat on the bone. It reminded me of the last time I'd had goat, in a stew at Back-A-Yard, where the broth was sweeter and lighter

      The egusi stew was delicious too, although I'm not sure what it would have tasted like without added spinach, since the dish was mostly spinach with chunks of chicken. Out of curiosity we ordered both pounded yam dumplings and grated cassava, preferring the white mashed potato taste to the bland cassava.

      The check came to $71, so not cheap. We had more food than we really needed, and without wine it would have been $45 for two plus tip.

      Great tips. I'm looking forward to an excuse to return next time I'm in the neighborhood.

      1. Chuckles the Clone Nov 9, 2007 12:14 PM

        We went for the first time last night. It was really pretty good.

        Neither of us were terribly hungry so we shared a soup and an
        entree. The pepper soup was wonderful. It's a peppery (both green
        pepper and hot pepper), meat-stocky broth. It came in a large
        shallow bowl with about 6 3/4" beef cubes piled in the center. It
        was moderately hot, about the level of a consumer-grade hot and
        sour soup. Really tasty with a lot of things going on. My friend was
        certain she detected some organ meat in the stock though I completely
        missed that.

        We also had the house stew with goat. It's a bright red, tomato-dominated
        stew with a clear undertone of bell pepper. A tiny bit of cinnamon. Various
        other spices I couldn't identify ... mint maybe? We were given a choice of
        mild, medium, hot, or, she smiled, extra hot. I picked hot. Next time, I'll
        pick medium. It's not that it was excessively spicy, but the extra heat covered
        up a lot of the goat. Which was too bad because the goat was the highlight
        of the evening. But because of the heat it turned into a three-step process:
        suck the sauce off the goat, drink some water, eat the goat.

        We got the pounded yam side. It came in a separate bowl. Gummy
        mashed potatoes describes it well. Nice soothing counterpoint to the firey
        stew. The stew, it should be mentioned, is a puree of vegetables with
        chunks of meat. So having some extra identifiable vegetable is good.

        No room for dessert but a couple of other tables ordered the puff puffs. They
        looked amazing. The thing no one has mentioned is that aside from there
        being four of them, they are each the size of a baseball. Next time for sure.

        We didn't have any of the problems noted in the earlier review. The soup could
        have come out a couple of minutes quicker but the pacing was generally good.
        Although nothing tasted like ketchup, the house stew is definitely the color of
        ketchup and there's a cinnamon/clove component to the flavor, but there is
        no danger of confusion. And nothing tasted off, the kitchen seems to know
        what it's doing.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Chuckles the Clone
          rworange Nov 9, 2007 01:29 PM

          I almost at there this week and then a chance to eat at Digs presented itself ... soo ...

          Thanks for the update. I really want to try one of the goat dishes.

          I mentioned the Puff Puffs somewhere. Go for the chocolate. The regular are just the chocolate without melted chocolate in them ... which IMO made this dessert. Let me know how you like them. They might have been a bit inconsistant in the beginning or people were unfamiliar with puff puffs. I'd be curious about how they are currently. I liked them. It is definatately a sharable dessert for two people.

        2. j
          jeannechang Oct 24, 2007 07:07 PM

          I didn't notice this post over the summer but I saw the thread and I had to post because I vehemently disagree! For the amount that this place cost me for dinner (3 of us, 1 appetizer, 2 entrees) I would rather have handed my money to the drugstore because 2 of the 3 of us had some serious digestive issues after the meal. It was such a disappointment that I've been actively encouraging people not to go there, and usually if I'm unimpressed I just don't say anything at all.

          I'll mention the good first. The space is really lovely, and they have a nice bar. The front of the restaurant is lined with booths and the large windows bring in a lot of light. The servers are friendly and they are good about keeping water glasses full. The scotch egg appetizer is good, especially because it was served warm and the sausage wasn't overpowering.

          Now the bad. We waited almost an hour for our food, and we went in at 5:20 when there was only one other table filled. The ground nut stew tasted like peanuts boiled with ketchup. The cassava was so foul that we spat it out. I tried it again with a bit of the stew since it was supposed to be eaten together, and it was as if the combination made both taste even worse. I drank a full glass of water to get the taste out of my mouth. The last entree we had was the jollof rice, which wasn't terrible but had almost no flavor. Imagine a plate of supermarket mix mexican rice and dried out rotisserie chicken.
          We're a group that will order dessert anywhere but with the disappointing entrees and sides, we couldn't bear to take the chance. Maybe that's the part of the menu that is edible.
          No no no never again!

          Edited to add some comments about decor and service.

          3 Replies
          1. re: jeannechang
            rworange Oct 24, 2007 07:12 PM

            Are you just not a fan of Nigerian food which can run to the bland side? Or are you familiar with Nigerian cuisine and didn't think this was a good example?

            1. re: rworange
              j
              jeannechang Oct 24, 2007 07:14 PM

              I am not familiar with Nigerian food. However, I don't think that means my opinion is not valid here. I know when food tastes bad, and when it just tastes different, a flavor I need to try again to appreciate. The other thing I didn't mention in my post is that we specifically asked the server to recommend everything we ordered, and if those are their specialties then I am singularly unimpressed.

              1. re: jeannechang
                p
                peterme Nov 10, 2007 09:20 AM

                I'm with jeannechang here. I can't comment about Nigerian food in general, but I can say that both my partner and I were pretty much put off by our experience at Lagosia. Everything from waiting too long (on a pretty quiet Friday night) to bitter and yucky dishes. We won't be going back.
                "Authenticity" is not interesting if it doesn't taste good.

          2. rworange Jul 4, 2007 02:21 AM

            Darn ... editing time ran out because I was playing with the new place feature. Anyway ... the sentence in the post above should read ...

            Put this place on Solano or Shattuck up near Chez Panisse and people WOULD be raving … not adverse to flavor.

            The staff wears black aprons ... not place aprons.

            3 Replies
            1. re: rworange
              b
              bunky Oct 24, 2007 04:25 PM

              I've always liked rworange's posts, and this Tuesday, went to Lagosia with spouse for lunch. It was great, and goat is on the menu now for those who have been waiting.

              What I liked:
              *Really knock out food. Spouse thought so too, and he is hard to please at a restaurant.
              *Nice interior, as mentioned above, but no white tablecloths at lunch which would have been off-putting; I like great food in a dive atmosphere. This was great food, but not a dive by any means.
              *Wait staff and hostess/manager were just as polite and friendly to the middle-aged couple in teeshirts and baggy pants as they were to the party of six professionals in nice dress 2 tables over. (Hint: we were not six.)
              *Hostess (don't know if it was Abby) checked on us several times and took a lot of care to make sure we enjoyed our meal. Very friendly as we left as well.

              Now to Food.
              We asked for everything a bit hotter than standard. (I worry that if too much chile/spicy seasoning is added only at the end you can hide some of the built up flavors, but I like things hot so it's always a dilemma.) We enjoyed:

              * Complimentary bowl of chin-chin.
              * Pepper pot soup ($1.50 added for goat)
              * Egusi Stew (with chicken and spinach; $2.50 added for spinach)
              * House Stew ($1.50 added for goat)

              So it came to about $29 for both of us at the end, higher than our usual lunch budget, but so worth it!

              Pepper pot soup was outstanding. We asked the manager what was in it, and she said it was a blend of several very rich beef and goat stocks. It was a thin soup, but the richness of the broth made it taste so thick you could stand a fork up in it. A rich, meaty broth worth every darn slurp. I'm only calling it broth because it was thin, but only in texture. The goat meat was the only added texture, and there wasn't a lot of it, but it was exactly right. Also caught tastes of ginger, basil, mint, and some other warm flavorings. Just the right amount of heat, left the mouth very warm, but all the flavors were right there.

              Egusi Stew: Egusi is a melon seed, quite small, and its taste was too quiet for me to catch, but overall I liked it a great deal. This was spouse's favorite. If it didn't have spinach added (and it was a huge amount), I might not have liked it as much. Would be interesting to try it without spinach to see if egusi flavor/texture came out more. It had tomato base notes, but leaned more heavily on ground nut side.

              House Stew: Rich tomato based puree with goat. Complex flavors, some of the same heat flavors as in Egusi (we did ask for all dishes to be spicier so kitchen might have added same dried chile to all that was also brought to table - not certain, maybe bird's eye?) but the mouth-feel of puree was heavier. Goat was perfect there, and I'd have liked more, but there was waaaay too much food on table already.

              Sides of iyan (pounded yam) and eba (cassava) that we split. Iyan tasted like a more glutinous mashed potato; it rolled up into little egg-like shapes on the spoon like gnocchi, and great with both dishes. Eba was both more grainy and glutinous; on its own it wasn't my thing, but dipped into the thick red gravy of the house stew it was great. Ate too much of both and felt extremely full for whole afternoon. Fault of greed, not Lagosia. We'd planned on taking leftovers home for later, but, err, the best laid plans often travel home under a teeshirt, not in a paper sack.

              Definitely going back for the scotch eggs - and I'd like to try each stew on the menu to see how they differ.

              No puff puffs until my middle is less puff puff.

              Please go!

              1. re: bunky
                rworange Oct 24, 2007 05:16 PM

                Great report. Thanks for the update and the tip about the goat.

                I've been a little worried about them. Haven't been able to get back but it seems for the time being they cut the Sunday brunch.

                Did you notice if they were doing baked goods yet? There was a little bakery case up front on my visit.

                1. re: rworange
                  b
                  bunky Nov 6, 2007 10:11 AM

                  Peeked at the case on the way out and didn't see anything there. It's Tuesday again and spousal is grousling about where to get lunch (time without small kids is golden time), so maybe I'll remind him about Lagosia and check case again. Hello little Scotch egg...

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